Sunday, July 4, 2010

Weekend on the Farm III

This was first sent out in the July 1 HTG newsletter - but it is such an important topic I wanted to share it broader.....

On June 25-27, Nancy and I hosted our third annual Weekend on the Farm which is a leadership training session with a spiritual bent. We do this event for people that get my daily email update each morning on life and my study of scripture. (If you want to be added to that list just send me an email requesting addition to the distribution list) Our first event focused on the book "The Go Giver" and last year we studied "Lead Like Jesus". This year – our instruction came from the pages of the Bible as we learned lessons on leadership from Nehemiah. He may have lived nearly 2500 years ago, but as is often the case, there are a lot of similarities to what he dealt with when compared to being a business leader today.

We had several HTG members who served as teachers this weekend, and we covered topics around preparing to lead, planning, motivating people, organizing a project, handling opposition, dealing with conflict, achieving and maintaining success and a few other areas. There were many gems from the weekend teaching that hit me right between the eyes, but I want to share a couple that I think really are worth considering.

Steve Bender, who runs InHouse IT in Orange County, a company of about 70 employees that delivers managed services to their clients, was the guy we had tasked with putting a bow on all the things we had heard. He shared a couple very insightful thoughts:

Lesson #1 – nothing happens until somebody steps up to lead

Think about that. It is really the way things are. A lot of people have great ideas, can dream big plans, come up with fantastic ways to do marvelous things – but until someone steps up and leads – it is just theory and empty words. It really defines our motto that "Vision without execution is hallucination". Ideas without leadership are simply that – hallucination. You see it all around your patch every day. On community boards, church committees, school events – we have lots of people with ideas and very few who step up to do something about them. And sometimes we have that disease in our own company. We attend conference after conference and feverishly take notes to bring back and simply put them in a file or maybe even talk about them with our staff, but we don't step up to lead and make sure they get done. Do you ever have that happen in your world?

We may go the next step and dump them on someone else's plate to do for us. Often we give them some cryptic idea we jotted down and say "just do it" without investing the time to explain the "why" to them. That creates a bit of a dilemma for our people, because they didn't hear the presentation we got the idea from so have no context. They are supposed to figure it out via some form of osmosis since we passed it to them. Leadership doesn't dump and run on anyone. It means we clearly define the "why" and then lay out the how, what, when, where and who. If you simply drop it on their laps – well no wonder they don't like you going to HTG meetings. There is no way they can succeed. That is a very good reason to bring a key leader with you – so they understand the context of the ideas and best practices before they are asked to execute.

Lesson #2 – leadership doesn't stop when we go out the door from the office

So I am about to stomp on your toes here. Mine are currently all broken after Steve jumped on them this weekend. For some strange reason we are able to lead effectively in the office but once we leave – we go on autopilot and stop providing that leadership. A leader does one thing continually – they lead. That skill is not tied to your desk at work. It is a gift that you have been wired with that needs to follow you in every interaction and relationship you have. I know all the excuses – heck I use them myself. Too tired, just want to get away from dealing with people, somebody else should do it for a change, I need some space, and my calendar is too full and on it goes. I am currently throwing the BS flag at you. Leadership does not stop at the door. In fact, there is always a need for leaders to lead.

The first place we should lead is at home. Life-work balance requires leadership. Things will take over our time and destroy our balance unless we lead. That is a fact you can see just by looking in the mirror. If you don't prepare and plan – you will be overwhelmed by work and feel like you have no options other than spending 18 hours a day doing a job you can never finish. Your spouse and kids need a leader. Families disintegrate because leaders don't lead. This isn't about being the "boss" at home. Real leadership is about serving others. Real leaders put other people's needs first. Your family needs you to be that kind of a leader. No one else is going to do it. If you don't lead, nothing happens. So start at home.

The world is filled with committees and groups that waste tens of thousands or millions of man hours floundering around because leaders are content to just sit there and watch it happen. It would be too much to take responsibility to lead this group or that committee is what we think. After all, I am worn out from my leadership at work. BS! We don't lead because we get lazy. We aren't willing to make a commitment to the mission of the project or group, but we are willing to waste our time being part of a non-functional team. C'mon – if you have time to be part of something you need to step up and lead. Nothing happens until someone provides leadership.

Churches – like many groups – today often flounder around because members aren’t willing to make commitments. Most are filled with successful people that get up Monday through Friday and go to work and lead successful businesses. But when they walk through the doors of their local church or synagogue, somehow they forgot everything they know and use all week. This is not how you make a true difference. We need to put the effort into leading at church at least equal to what we do in the workplace.

Organizations like HTG struggle with leadership too. We are comprised of 250 successful entrepreneurial leaders. You would think we would never lack for a willing leader to step up . . . but we do. Members cut corners in getting their preparations ready for the meetings and posted so the group can be effective. We struggle to get members to step up to be part of a champ program for our platinum vendors. Members cut out of their group meetings early for personal convenience leaving the rest of their group hampered by their lack of input. If there is anyplace I would expect there to be an abundance of leaders – well it would be HTG. We need to set that standard high and hold each other to it. One area all leaders need to be is accountable. That example is critical if we are going to lead effectively.

Are you really a leader – because leadership is a full time gig. Not just 8-5 Monday through Friday. Leaders lead in life and community too. Don't miss that very important lesson. There is no question that by being a leader 24/7/365 you will be part of a very elite club. Few do it that way, but it is the only way to truly be effective. People want to follow someone who leads all the time, not just when they are watching. Don't make the mistake of being a part time leader. It will only disappoint your followers, and soon you will look back and wonder where they all went!


Katie Robinette said...

Thanks to a plug by Stuart Crawford today, I read this article. Thanks! Your comment about visions without actions being just hallucinations took my line up a notch (a vision is just a vision if it is only in your head. If it is only in your head, it is as good as dead). Martin Short has a great character sketch (Jackie Rogers Jr) on an HBO special on that called Ideas.

Anyway, great article.

Bob Acton said...

I agree with your post about the nature of leadership. It is important to consider that leading others is a full-time effort both at the office and in home life. Consistency in a leader's behaviour is key to not only solidifying the necessary leadership attitudes & behaviour within but engage their staff in the workplace with a consistent message. This contributes to a leader being seen as authentic.

One factor that I think is helpful to a leader, and subsequently to their peers, direct reports, and clients, is the ability to be adaptive and resilient in the face of changing conditions. Typically this is seen as adapting to market changes, stakeholder needs, etc. but I think it is equally important to adapt to the varying people a leader encounters. Adaptive leadership is critical to success.

Arlin, your point about spending some time talking with employees about the vision the leader has is so important. I have found that successful leaders can adjust to the different styles, needs, attitudes or personalities of those around them to provide some unique way of getting that individual on board. Leaders who have problems, or even derail their careers, often only have one approach to people and thus miss the opportunity to engage all types of people. I think pretty true both at home (think of your teenager!)and in the workplace.